Speaking to the BBC’s Turkish service, Erdogan said on Tuesday night that “there are currently 170,000 Armenians living in our country. Only 70,000 of them are Turkish citizens, but we are tolerating the remaining 100,000. If necessary, I may have to tell these 100,000 to go back to their country because they are not my citizens. I don’t have to keep them in my country.”
But Turkish-Armenian groups say that the prime minister has made similar threats before.
“We are not taking it as a serious threat,” said Aris Nalci, an editor at a Turkish-Armenian weekly.
Erdogan’s own political party played down his remarks as well. The prime minister was “not talking about something that would happen today or tomorrow,” the AK Party foreign affairs spokesman told Reuters.
The interview comes after Erdogan spoke kindly of his “friend” Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt at a press conference in London on Tuesday.
Erdogan said at a press conference that he was gladdened by Reinfeldt’s Saturday phone call, during which the Swede expressed regret about the “politicized” decision made by parliament. Reinfeldt also ensured his Turkish counterpart that the Swedish people continue to think very highly of the country.
Together with Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, Fredrik Reinfeldt has stated publicly that his government doesn’t intend to make the parliament’s decision a part of its foreign policy.
The opposition Social Democrats have since reported him to the Committee on the Constitution, which will rule if Reinfeldt and Bildt are required to adopt the genocide resolution as law.